It’s official — Bayern Munich have paid at least €8m to Borussia Mönchengladbach to secure Yann Sommer, who is sporting director Hasan “Brazzo” Salihamidžić’s preferred replacement at goalkeeper for Manuel Neuer.
Gladbach played some serious hardball, reportedly getting Bayern to more than double their original offer in the process. It’s a cave-in that, in my view, was a mistake.
Sommer is a great Bundesliga keeper, at least when he’s played against Bayern in the past. But his contract was expiring this June, and Bayern got taken for a ride in their desperation.
Gladbach had something to lose, too
Gladbach’s reasons for holding out were clear: they would need to replace their starter mid-season, and the player they had their eye on, 29-year-old Montpelier keeper Jonas Omlin, was under contract until 2024. Sure, they would have liked Bayern to fully fund their new deal — and that’s what they got.
But Sommer’s contract was due to expire this June. They were about to lose him on a free — whether to Bayern or to one of the Premier League clubs to which he was erstwhile linked, like Manchester United or Tottenham Hotspur. Gladbach would have required a keeper in the summer transfer window, and they would have had to pay fully out of pocket for Omlin.
This was a clear case of “meet in the middle” — except Bayern determined that they absolutely could not do without precisely Yann Sommer for the next six months. But was that the case?
Bayern have a lot less at stake
By now, the Doha winter training camp is concluded for Julian Nagelsmann and team, and the Winterpause’s lone friendly — a 4-4 barnburner against RB Salzburg — is over, too. Whoever Bayern get will have little time to integrate (even if Nagelsmann suggests otherwise).
In that sense, Sommer — a German-speaking Bundesliga veteran already — was of course ideal. But let’s be real. The Rekordmeister are six points clear of their nearest serious challengers in RB Leipzig (sorry, SC Freiburg). That’s still a big gap and it’s not one that Sven Ulreich can’t hold.
Bayern are probably winning this title running away anyway; whether they have serious competition will come down to whether other teams can stay sharp. Only one team, Borussia Dortmund, has eclipsed seventy points in the table in recent seasons, and that was in 2018/19.
In the Champions League, PSG was a 50/50 tossup even with Manuel Neuer. Yes, Sommer fortifies Bayern’s chances, but he hardly guarantees advancement — and Ulreich hardly concedes defeat in the Round of 16.
Sommer in the summer?
Bayern’s announcement of a deal with RB Leipzig midfielder Konrad Laimer is imminent. That’s because Laimer’s contract expires this June — same as Sommer’s — and since January 1 he has been officially free to negotiate with other clubs. They could have pursued this route with Sommer to secure him for next year.
Bayern clearly have use for Sommer beyond this season. Neuer will be 37 next fall, in the final year of his contract, with health status unclear. And Sommer clearly has interest in making the move. Six months wait would have saved a heaping of funds that could have been reserved for other investments.
And if Sommer decided to go another way? Well, that’s not the end of the world. Bayern would return to attacking the market from a position of strength — the world’s pool of goalkeepers available to them, whether in the #1 or #2 profile.
Again, Sommer has been a fine Bundesliga keeper — he isn’t the only top keeper out there, and he’s not clearly one of the first names to name after Neuer anyway.
So, who could have Bayern signed?
Guy. Justa Guy. If Sommer was the only practical midseason option for a #1, there were surely a plethora of #2s out there to fill in the vacancy left by Sven Ulreich’s promotion.
Of course, a backup for Ulreich would have been necessary — but it only needs to be a competent senior level player with some experience. Or a decent younger player who could compete against Ulreich for the #2 spot going forward.
Because Neuer’s not the only keeper Bayern have to think about replacing in the near future, either. Ulreich himself is 34, and next year will be the last one of his current deal. Carrying three senior goalkeepers isn’t too unusual, especially when one of them can be groomed into the future #2.
Bringing in someone, working with them for six months, and having a readied-up option heading into the summer window: all of this would bolster Bayern’s strategic position for 2023/24.
Sommer will be fine — but was risky
Sommer is not a bad player! He’s an excellent one, and should improve Bayern’s odds, by some degree relative to “just a guy” replacement, of fighting for each of their three competitions in the next five months. But Bayern could find themselves bounced by PSG anyway with nothing to show for it.
And they’ve caved completely to another team’s transfer demands while negotiating from a position of weakness. On principle, that’s a bad precedent. “Fund our replacement 100%” — this could well be a request expected to be honored in future negotiations, particularly in mid-season.
And now Bayern will have three keepers — aged 37, 35, and 34 — heading into next season. The succession plan is totally vacant; Alexander Nübel is as good as gone, probably to AS Monaco. The search for a new number two will need to start afresh, except there also won’t be any room to add one this summer. Sommer might opt to leave again immediately, but that’s assuming he’ll have a taker at the same price — what happens if there isn’t one?
There’s a can being kicked down the road here, and it’s one that can add to both costs and headache.
Ultimately, “relaxed” is more than a buzzword. The team should stay calm in their actions, measure the severity of unpleasant situations, and stick to their valuations — which in this case, should have been a lot closer to the initial €4m than the final €8m (+1.5m).